Thai PM Asks Coalition Partner to Halt Amnesty Campaign
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra Thursday appealed to a member of the ruling coalition to drop his campaign for an amnesty law which would shield the premier from a looming corruption conviction.
Thaksin, who faces a five-year ban from politics over charges of concealing a portion of his enormous assets, said he was confident of being cleared by the Constitutional Court which began hearing an appeal earlier this month.
The beleaguered leader appealed for Veera Musikapong, an outspoken member of the New Aspiration Party which is part of the Thai Rak Thai-led coalition, to halt the amnesty campaign which has drawn ridicule in the media.
"I will ask him not to go ahead, but I am not confident he will listen to me as it is his firm intention," Thaksin said on his return from an official visit to Vietnam Thursday.
"There is no need to issue an amnesty law ... an amnesty would mean that I am guilty, and I am confident that I am not guilty."
Veera caused an outcry this week by proposing to collect half a million signatures to support an amnesty bill in parliament, in the event the Constitutional Court finds Thaksin guilty and boots him out of office.
But on Thursday he backtracked, saying he would call off his campaign if pressed by the prime minister.
Veera said the purpose of his amnesty drive was to relieve Thaksin of the worries caused by his court battle and to respect the strong mandate he was handed by voters in January's landslide general election victory.
"This amnesty law would cover all cases already ruled on by the Constitutional Court or that are still under deliberation," he told reporters.
Thaksin has beeen accused by the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) of deliberately concealing 100 million dollars worth of assets in an official declaration filed four years ago.
But the premier reiterated Thursday he was innocent of the charges, and added he had full confidence in Thailand's new system of checks-and-balances enshrined in the 1997 anti-corruption constitution.
The amnesty furore, the latest in a series of embarrassing incidents involving the prime minister, was widely criticised for violating the nation's legal principles.
A spokesman from Veera's New Aspiration Party (NAP), the second largest in the Thai Rak Thai-led coalition, came forward Thursday to allay fears that the campaigner's efforts could upset relations within the coalition.
NAP spokesman Atthasit Sappayasit said the party took no responsibility for Veera's actions, particularly as he had now resigned to take up a job with Thailand's State Railways board.
"Veera's actions or initiatives are in his capacity as a private person, they have nothing to do with the party," he said – BANGKOK (AFP)
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